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Following is an essay which formed a part of exchange with a dear friend in response to my previous "Narendra Modi is Savarkar Redux" post. Various issues which are typically raised while extending a critique on Savarkar are addressed in this post, as per my capability and knowledge.
1. Regarding Savarkar's role in increasingly communal politics of 1937-1947 era.
India has faced two fold threats since her fall to central asian Muslims. One is against an open foreigner. And second against natives following foreign ideology OR carrying forward foreign interests. Turks and Pathans, Mughals and Pathans, British and Muslim League were the three iterations of these two antagonists of Dharma.
INC was focusing only on British. Muslim league which represented the antagonistic aspirations of political Islam (evident from all actions of Pathan lobby since 1500s), was the elephant in the room which everyone chose to ignore (many still do). And this elephant "Islam", was singularly focused on Hindus. Savarkar and Mahasabha was the only Indic voice which spoke in favor of Hindus.
I do not know how to remain secular when Moplah riots are happening (similar to recent Assam riots) and 100,000 Hindus were killed. We can of course disagree but, wait until you see the buildup of 1947 like conditions in India. I assume you do not live here (I am sorry for this assumption, but it is important one since we are talking on purely aarthik issues, not dharmik or adhyatmik issues). If you visit many parts of country, you will witness a buildup. On ground, you will be surprised to see Hindus support the thoughts of Savarkar, even if they do not know his name. A very harsh Greeshma Ritu is coming. 1947 like scenario is slowly building up in India. You will hear similar voice from other regions of India (or may be same region), as years progress.
Regarding Savarkar's role in elimination of caste-discrimination
Regarding Savarkar's efforts on eliminating Jaati discrimination and jaati pyramid, you need to read a lot. Savarkar consistently worked on it on grassroot level for more than 4 decades. Entire Ratnagiri district and parts of Konkan were completely free of untouchability (noted by Ambedkar himself) before Ambedkar burnt manusmriti. And all this when he was under arrest in Ratnagiri. This work continued until his death. He performed Upanayana on thousands of ex-untouchable children, organized sahabhojans, opened temples with dalit priests (properly trained), organized gatherings for women, gave scholarships to dalit students. It is not a red herring, but one of the essential aspects of Savarkar's life.
Regarding Mahatma Gandhi Assassination
Regarding MKG, what killed MKG were his own Karma helped by nelson's eye of Brit-INC establishment towards his security. Savarkar was staunch critic of Gandhi since India House days (MKG was much senior to Savarkar then). Savarkar's Hindutva criticizes MKG's inaction garbed under dharmik terms of Satya and Ahimsa. And it does so in harsh manner. This is not the proof to attribute the guilt of MKG's murder (and planning) to Savarkar. MKG's murder was an operation of and by Godse et al. Godse was also RSS swayamsevak at a time. Apte was a recruiter for RAF. Savarkar had supported Hindu recruitment in army (and was derided by INC as recruit-veer). An ideology does not kill a person. It is men who kill men. Ideology kills Ideology. So it is unfair to blame Hindutva for murder of Gandhi.
Regarding Savarkar being "reactionary" and not "original" in his ideas, approach and actions
Finally, about Savarkar (and Hindutva) being reactionary, lacking in original ideas - Just because a voice is reactionary, does not belittle its importance. One may shy away from his name because it has been made a hot potato, but that makes one a hypocrite. But fact of the matter is that Hindu Mahasabha (or something similar) will rise again, if state of affairs continue. You are right that HMS like organizations are reactionary. Because dharma, in its nature, is accommodating. But there are levels of accommodation, we are prepared to accept. And when accommodation transforms into bootlicking or compromise, there will rise a reactionary voice (followed by a fist) which will at least try and bring senses to society.
Reactions are as strong and important as actions. Entire movement of Marathas and later Sikhs was reactionary throughout. "Eminent historians" have thrashed them for being "merely reactionary" and hence "lacking original ideas of governance", but that does not change the fact that India is still a Hindu majority because of that "reaction". Original ideas was not their job. Their job was to free India using whatever means available and dilapidated society ready to crumble. Same is the case with Vijaynagar (better manifestation, but equally reactionary). For implementing original idea, the previous damaging idea has to be undone. Until ground is leveled, every force (however well meaning and rich in original ideas) has to focus its energies on leveling. Savarkar's case (along with that of HMS) is similar. He had to attempt mobilizing a society which was being nicely and sequentially sedated, at short notice against a superior and well-entrenched enemy.